“The ultimate reason I’m here is to put basketball on the upper echelon of the international game,” said Nash in May. “That’s the end goal. The journey’s great, we want to work every day to build a team, to build a program, to build a culture about our game but ultimately we want success. We want to be playing at the Olympics perennially. We want to be in the hunt for medals.”
The task is obviously a challenging one, but at first blush, Nash seems well-positioned for the gig. As an NBA superstar for the last decade, Nash is already versed in the beats of the contemporary game. Moreover, from a competitive standpoint, he also possesses invaluable scouting expertise of the world’s best players, including LeBron James (USA), his teammate Pau Gasol (Spain) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina). Such experience is an instructive background for Nash and his assistant Rowan Barrett as they make important operational decisions leading up to 2016. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Nash, despite showing signs of physical decay, is arguably the sharpest basketball mind in the league today.
Second, Canada’s men’s program is seriously underfunded. The current operating budget for the team is approximately $400,000, over 10 times less than the amount used by Team USA. However, the name recognition of a public figure like Steve Nash is a powerful tool in leveraging the investment dollars required to successfully run a national basketball regime. It’s already been reported that since Captain Canada was announced as GM, the program (as a whole) has raised in excess of $2 million from its “Sixth Man Group” donation plan.
The real promise of Nash’s involvement comes with unifying Canada’s best young players. For whatever reason, Canada Basketball has historically had a hard time convincing its best professional players to participate in international competition. Rick Fox, Jamaal Magloire, Samuel Dalembert, and even Nash himself, have held out for various reasons in the past. Now, there is an even larger pool of high-caliber Canadian hoopsters in the professional and amateur ranks. Prominent among them are first-round NBA Draft picks Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cory Joseph (San Antonio Spurs), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando Magic); college stand-outs Myck Kabongo (Texas), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Anthony Bennett (UNLV), Nick Stauskas (UNLV); and Andrew Wiggins, a 6-7 hybrid who is generally considered the No. 1 prospect of the 2014 high school recruiting class. The timing of Nash’s arrival couldn’t be more perfect. For the above players, having a relevant NBA star call you personally to advocate the benefits of the national program makes it easier to commit and embrace the maple leaf for a number of years. After all, what sort of Canadian are you if say no to Steve Nash?
Early evidence of this approach was apparent at the end of August 2012 as Nash and company gathered 27 of Canada’s best players for the inaugural Senior Men’s Training Camp. The five-day camp served as an important first step in evaluating the existing talent, and fostering relationships between the new executive and players, and between the players themselves. On hand were Thompson, Joseph, Nicholson, Kabongo, Pangos and Bennett, along with Joel Anthony (Miami Heat), Robert Sacre (Los Angeles Lakers), Kris Joseph (recently waived by the Boston Celtics), Brady Heslip (Baylor), Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky), Junior Cadougan (Marquette), Trey Lyles (Arsenal Technical HS), and there was even a surprise appearance from the NBA veteran Jamaal Magloire (Toronto Raptors).
Nash also announced early in the week that former Raptors head coach and current Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Jay Triano would rejoin the national team as head coach. Altogether, the workouts were perhaps best summed up by Thompson, who told The Toronto Star: “Look who showed up… I think all the top players are here now, it’s great for our country, I’m excited.”
While it’s too early to call the Nash era a success (that judgment will come when the team hits the court, as we learned with this year’s Lakers), things are certainly looking up for basketball in the Great White North – despite his decision to stay south for the 2012-13 NBA season.
What do you think?
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